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Daytona State Survives

Daytona State Survives
James and Thomas Oltorik of Daytona State College rode a giant 25-14 day-one catch to the win.

James and Thomas Oltorik, a team of brothers from Daytona State College, smashed 25-1 on day one of the FLW College Fishing Southeastern Conference Championship on Pickwick Lake and seemed poised to run away with the title. Conditions changed and so did the brothers’ prospects in the second round, however. Starting day two with a 1-pound, 9-ounce lead, the pair brought only three fish to weigh-in and had to hold on for the win with a 35-2 total as their closest competition stumbled as well.

 

A hectic practice

“We practiced for three days,” says Thomas. “We spent most of our time in the grass, flipping and trying to do what we knew how to do best. When the tournament came, we just picked an area where we’d gotten a few bites.”

Once they picked their spot, the magic started. Ironically, the Oltorik duo needed an impressive sequence of events to line up for them in order to even get their chance in the tournament.

“When we won the Bassmaster College Series Southern Regional on the St. John’s River last winter we ran through 6-foot high waves to do it,” recalls James. “This summer, we totally rebuilt the boat from the damage we had done to it, but the lower unit completely blew up the day before we went to practice [for the Southeastern Conference Championship].”

Lucky for them, the brothers have a good friend who loaned them his boat. So, while they waited for the insurance money to take care of the lower unit, the pair drove north to Pickwick and practiced for three days – enough to find the eventual winning spot.

“The lower unit rebuild started on Thursday when the insurance money came in and we ordered the new unit,” explains Thomas. “They put it together Friday morning and then my dad tested it on the St. John’s River on Friday. Then Friday night he drove it all the way up to Pickwick and we loaded the boat at 5 o’clock the morning of the tournament.”

 

Digging into the mats

Thomas and James Oltorik earned $4,000 and a berth in the National Championship for the Southeastern Conference Championship win on Pickwick.

After the Daytona duo reached their first destination on day one, they were done by about 1:30 p.m. Having flipped up a massive bag that included one fish that went nearly 8 pounds, they left early with the notion that they were saving some fish for the second day. Little did they know how tough it would become.

“That first day, they [dam managers] had the water moving and the conditions were right,” says Thomas. “The second day, the conditions were about the same, but the water had dropped and there was no current – it really hurt everybody.”

Both days, the Daytona State team focused on thick mats on the main river in about 8 feet of water. The best ones were loaded with bream and their telltale popping as they inhaled insects was audible throughout both days. Their bait of choice for the Oltoriks was a junebug blue- or watermelon-colored Bitter’s B.F.M (a Beaver-style bait) with a 1-ounce flipping weight.

“Except for our first fish, all the bites we got were on the drop,” explains James. “We would just free spool it straight down and feel them whack it. Then we let them take it a bit and we’d just give them a pull instead of hitting them with a hookset.”

“We were flipping up into some of the thickest grass we could find,” adds Thomas. “We wrapped up new flipping sticks with FP936 MHX blanks the day before we came. That was really key for us. Those blanks are super heavy. With a regular flipping stick you would struggle to get them out. For us, because we were flipping so close, we didn’t have time to get the net. We boat-flipped every fish except the one that was almost 8 pounds the first day. Instead of us struggling to get these fish out of the grass, they just popped out.”

After hammering down on day one, the Oltoriks opted to start the second day chasing a topwater bite they had discovered in practice. Tossing a prop bait called The Pony (made by Bryan Heaberlin Custom Lures) produced some fish, but none that were keepers.

“When we went back to our flipping stretch we caught a 4-pounder and a 3-pounder and then had a few others,” says Thomas. “We still caught fish; we just could barely get keepers and I missed one at the end that I know was big.”

“We were definitely nervous in the afternoon,” notes James. “But, we stayed in the same area all day long and saw a lot of the other teams doing a lot of running. We knew that the conditions were really tough, so we were hoping that our day one lead was going to be enough to hang on and get the win.”

As it happened, it was, and the Oltoriks picked up their first win with FLW and punched their ticket to the National Championship.

Daytona State just barely edged out Clemson for the Southeastern Conference Championship win.


The top 10 teams that advanced to the 2016 FLW College Fishing National Championship are:

1. Daytona State College – James Oltorik and Thomas Oltorik – 35-2 (8) – $4,000

2. Clemson University – Ross Burns and Isaac Nesbitt – 34-13 (10) – $2,000

3. Georgia Highlands College – Eric Fisher and Jake Akin – 32-14 (10) – $1,000

4. University of North Alabama – Dawson Lenz and Andrew Tate – 31-3 (10) – $1,000

5. Auburn University – Mitchell Jennings and Timmy Ward – 29-15 (10) – $1,000

6. Gadsden State Community College – Josh Oliver and Colby Smith – 28-9 (7)

7. Western Carolina University – Tyler Thomasson and Josh Cannon – 27-10 (10)

8. Auburn University – Ethan Hayes and Garrett Roberts – 27-1 (10)

9. University of South Carolina – Chris Blanchette and Hampton Anderson – 26-10 (10)

10. University of Alabama-Birmingham – Matthew Oliver and Justin Woodruff – 26-7 (10)

Complete results

Tags: college-fishing  james-oltorik  thomas-oltorik  pickwick-lake  jody-white  headline-story  2015-09-26-conference-championship-pickwick 

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